The hottest movie of 2013 will be released online this week for just $5 a view.
"Sriracha," a 33-minute film dedicated to the famous hot chili sauce by YouTube producer and filmmaker Griffin Hammond, hits the Internet on Wednesday. This year has seen a Srirachapocolypse, with the inaugural Sriracha festival and even Sriracha vodka, but now for the first time, the story of the famous "rooster sauce" has been captured in a documentary film.
Hammond said the documentary turned out to be much more than he originally hoped.
"There is so much I learned over the summer. The story got bigger than I thought it would be," Hammond said. "In some ways, I imagined this would be kind of this wacky, silly documentary about the fans and the kind of cult phenomenon of Sriracha, but then I found there are these really human stories there."
The most compelling of those stories is that of Sriracha creator and Huy Fong Foods founder and CEO David Tran, whose brand of chili sauce with the telltale green cap is the most well-known in the U.S.
Tran founded his company after immigrating to America as a refugee from Vietnam. The boat that took him out of Vietnam was the Huey Fong Panamanian freighter, which inspired the company name, the film reveals. The movie includes old Reuters footage of the boat off the coast of Hong Kong.
"When I start the business, we need to create a company name," Tran says in the film. "What name for me? So I said, 'OK. Huy Fong, so I can remember it.'"
Perhaps the reason for the lack of a Sriracha movie before Hammond was the relative mystery surrounding the company. Huy Fong was largely closed to publicity or press interviews. With a legal dispute between the city of Irwindale and Huy Fong over an alleged stench coming from the factory and bothering neighbors, Tran has opened his doors.
Even Tran admitted that he was reluctant to allow Hammond in his old Rosemead factory or the new 650,000 square foot state-of-the- art factory he just built in Irwindale. Ultimately, Tran said he was pleased with the outcome.
"I like the documentary," Tran said via email. "Griffin visited our company and went into deeper detail about our operations. I was not going to let Griffin do it in the beginning, but now the Sriracha fans and friends can see our operations. I heard someone say that it is more difficult to visit Huy Fong than the Pentagon."
The film features more than 34 interviews, including Randy Clemens, author of two Sriracha cookbooks, L.A. chef and Thai culinary ambassador Jet Tila, Tran and dozens of hot sauce fans across the country. Hammond also traveled to the town of Si Racha, Thailand, where Sriracha hot chili sauce originated, and interviewed employees of Siraja Panich, the company that invented it.
The movie also includes a number of Sriracha songs, raps and videos dedicated to the famous sauce.
Hammond asked for donations from Sriracha fans in a Kickstarter campaign to fund his travel to Thailand for the film. He only asked for $5,000, but in the end, the campaign saw a huge outpouring support - earning $21,000 in one month. With the added funds, Hammond was able to expand the film even more.
Contributors earned a variety of rewards, including an advanced screening of the finished product, and all 1,315 names are listed in the credits.
"They really changed the scope of the film," Hammond said. "We were able to go to Thailand, New York. The film got bigger with their support."
In addition to offering it for view online, Hammond has entered the movie into more than 14 film festivals.
Kickstarter contributor Vicki Zwart of San Gabriel said she loved the final film, especially the insight it gave about Tran and his company.
"It's a great movie topic. There are so many of us who love it but don't know it's made in America," Zwart said. "He is a true American success story. My favorite part was when David called Sriracha his love."
And that kind of reaction was, ultimately, Hammond's goal.
"I'm really proud of it. It's a compelling story, but I also want it to be a mini-encyclopedia for Sriracha lovers," Hammond said. "I want to share all these cool things I learned."
To view the film starting Wednesday, visit www.srirachamovie.com.
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